Most people want to save money without cramping their style. So instead of making sweeping changes to your budget, it helps to start small. If you spend a lot of money on food, and good food is pretty important to you, here are a few easy food swaps that will save $30 a week on groceries. Download a FREE Budget Dinner Recipe Cookbook!
—Hilary Meyer, Associate Food Editor
Let’s face it, meat is expensive. So why not try tofu instead? It sounds sort of ridiculous, but tofu can be marinated,
grilled and sautéed—just like steak can. It has a real knack for sucking up flavors, so cooking it with something bold
(like barbecue sauce, for example) can give your taste buds a real jolt without you feeling like you’re missing out. Of
course, you wouldn’t swap tofu for meat every night, but using this swap once a week will save you some serious
Money Saved: $8.75
Everybody loves chicken breast. It’s lean and ready to cook straight out of the package. The problem is that it’s
expensive per pound. To add to that, standard chicken breasts are getting pretty big, so it’s hard to buy a small amount.
So why not try boneless, skinless chicken thighs? They’re a little more work to prepare for cooking (you have some more
fat to trim compared to breasts), but they’re still healthy and just as delicious as (and arguably even better than)
chicken breasts. So how much will you save swapping one pound of boneless chicken breast for one pound of chicken
Money Saved: $2.50
Throwing a bag of prepopped popcorn or a box of microwavable packets in your shopping cart is pretty easy. So easy that
most people have forgotten how easy it is to make popcorn at home from just a jar of kernels. And as it turns out, it’s
cheaper too. Another advantage of popping your own popcorn? You can control the additives. No need for imitation butter
flavor when you can add a little of the real stuff or your own custom toppings to your freshly popped, piping-hot bag of
Money Saved: $2.50
Frozen vegetables are underrated. They come prechopped and ready to use, are just as good for you as fresh vegetables and
in some cases are considerably cheaper than their fresh counterparts. The real budget goldmine lies in the bags of frozen
mixed vegetables. Instead of buying two bell peppers and an onion for your next stir-fry, for example, grab a bag of
pepper and onion mix and use that instead. You’ll save time chopping and save some money too.
Money Saved: $ 2.25
Many shoppers have grown accustomed to eating whatever fruit or vegetable they want to year-round, regardless of whether
it’s in season. This probably isn’t a good thing for quality reasons (in-season produce always seems to taste better, for
one thing) and it certainly isn’t good for your budget. Eating in season is less costly. Take strawberries, for example.
They’re a great source of vitamin C, but a pint of strawberries in the winter will set you back $3.50 or more. A large
navel orange, on the other hand, is another great source of vitamin C and that will cost you only about 75 cents.
Money Saved: $2.75
Buying organic produce is great when you can afford it, but if you’re on a budget you’ll do better to stick with
conventional. If you are concerned about pesticides, be strategic and choose the fruits and vegetables that have been
shown to have very little pesticide residues according to the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides
in Produce. You can save anywhere from 30 cents to $1 (or more) by buying conventional over organic, depending on what
Money saved: $10.00
Canned beans aren’t very expensive, but dry beans are almost free. Almost. Consider this: 1½ cups of dry beans costs only
34 cents and, once cooked, yields approximately the amount in two 15-ounce cans. Of course, you would never cook just 1/2
cup of beans, but if you buy them in bulk and cook a larger amount (on the stove or in your slow cooker), you can freeze
what you don’t need right away in small portions or one large portion, depending on your future use. Then the next time
you need to cook with beans, you can just reach into your freezer instead of reaching for a can.
Money Saved: $1.25